When you hear opinions about the Philadelphia Phillies, similar complaints usually arise: the displeasure with Charlie Manuel, the lack of a decent third baseman, and the ineffectiveness of the outfield.
The first issue has been addressed, to an extent. With Ryne Sandberg now lurking in the dugout shadows, Charlie Manuel may not be able to get away with his inept decision making.
Sandberg, a Hall of Famer, will not tolerate Manuel's lack of game strategy and his poor handling of the pitching staff. Sandberg will let his feelings be known—that the dugout dynamics are dysfunctional.
Despite his allegiance to Manuel, Ruben Amaro will feel pressure to make the change. I would not be surprised to see Sandberg take over the helm by the All-Star break. Amaro could add Sandberg's former teammate, Jaime Moyer, as the pitching coach to replace the equally ineffective Rich Dubee.
The third base situation will be difficult to solve. The free agent pool is not strong.
David Wright will probably remain with the Mets. I'm not sure he would be able to land a long term deal, with his propensity to strike out alongside home run and RBI totals that don't really prove worthy of the megabucks.
Kevin Youkilis—who is a well known clubhouse lawyer—has seen his stock drop the last two years. At 33, and seemingly injury prone, Youkilis hit .235 with 19 home runs and 60 RBI in 2012. He too may not be able to secure the big dollars.
The Padres' Chase Headley (.286, 31 HR, 115 RBI) should be nearly untouchable now that he has emerged as one of the best third basemen in all of baseball.
Seattle's Kyle Seager has also proven to be a strong young third baseman (.259, 20 HR, 86 RBI), but the Mariners have not made any trade overtures.
So who do the Phillies put at third base?
With Cody Asche waiting in the wings for 2014, next season I would give the position to Kevin Frandsen. He proved to be capable both offensively and defensively. It would make the most sense to pay Frandsen a minimal salary and go after two outfielders, since the free agent pool for outfielders is much more appealing.
So who should patrol the outfield for the Phillies?
Left field should be easy.
Despite only 33 at-bats, Darren Ruf smacked six extra base hits—three homers, one triple and two doubles. He hit .333 with 10 RBI.
Obviously, 33 at-bats is not enough to truly evaluate a player, but we are talking about a guy who led the minors in home runs with 38 and has hit .300 each year as a professional. In his short MLB call-up, Ruf showed excellent poise on both offensive and defensive.
In center field it would be nice to land Josh Hamilton, but it is unlikely the Phillies would be willing to shell out enough cash and offer a long term deal for a 31-year-old outfielder with health concerns.
A more likely choice for the Phillies to go after would be speedster Michael Bourn.
Bourn, 29, is an outstanding defensive player and a true leadoff hitter. With him in the lineup, the Phillies could drop Jimmy Rollins to second or maybe even fifth or sixth in the batting order.
The right field spot could go to either Dom Brown or John Mayberry, but if the Phillies are serious about contending in 2013 they will need to seek another outfielder.
Neither Brown or Mayberry have shown they can be an effective starter.
But in order to sign Bourn, the Phillies will need to pay out some serious cash, so they may be reluctant to pay more cash for an additional outfielder.
Though with Frandsen playing third, Philadelphia would still have enough to possibly land someone like Torii Hunter to play right field. The Angels might not want to give Hunter another big contract with Trout, Trumbo and Pujols being the new faces of the Anaheim Angels.
The 37-year-old Hunter wants to play a couple more years, and although he has lost a step or two, he is still a great right fielder. He and Bourn would provide excellent defense. Hunter also hit .313 with 16 HRs and 86 RBI in 2012. Hunter is a likeable veteran who would blend in nicely in the Phillies clubhouse.
The nucleus of Howard, Utley, Rollins and Ruiz would do well with Bourn, Hunter, Ruf and Frandsen.
The starting pitching is still strong with Halladay, Hamels and Lee (providing Halladay is healthy come spring), and the bullpen has turned around nicely with Horst, Aumont and De Fratus.
A possible lineup for 2013: